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Held back at 18; Three lessons about being a referee

In Fall 2004 I was an 18-year-old level 2 referee and I had the following experiences with three different people:

  1. The R.I.C. for the Winnipeg Women's High School League was reluctant to let me officiate in that league.

  2. Another experienced referee was reluctant to spend time in a car to give me a ride to St. Andrews.

  3. The R.I.C. who said no to me lined the first game I ever refereed. At the end of the game, he had this frustrated and disappointed look in his eyes that I still remember clearly.

Most readers will do the math; 18-years-old, level 2, probably wants to become a level three official. I did. So...

I asked the R.I.C. of APHA.

He said no.

I was mad.

I had a chip-on-my-shoulder--an unhealthy chip because I did not know why or what I needed to work on. That fall I helped at a level 2 timekeeper clinic and made sure to introduce my self as a "senior" level 2 referee. When I attended my level 2 referee clinic I made sure to sit in the front row, ANSWER ALL THE QUESTIONS, and make sure that everyone know that I know the answers.

My holier-than-thou attitude existed for the first part of the season. At some point the R.I.C. of APHA told me a story. "NHL-Darryl" did not earn his nic-name from skill on the ice but rather attitude. He "liked to carry a mirror on the ice" as the game was all about him and the primary outcome of the game was him. Other referees refused to work with him and players hated playing in games he officiated. I had an attitude problem.

Without all the details, I worked hard to change my attitude. I really wanted to be a level three referee. I also really did not want to be "that guy."

Now, I tell this story not to brag or encourage you to make positive changes in your life as an official and a person.

Rather, I want to share three things I learned:

1) One referee is not bigger than the game and when you quit the game will continue to exist. The game is not about the referees or the fans, or the coaches. The game is about the players.

2) Wearing black-and-white stripes is a privilage and a responsibility to be cherished and respected. It cannot be about one person.

3) Have fun. It is game. If you start to feel like refereeing is a job and nothing else then it is time to take a break and rebalance your life.

Mitchell Jeffrey has officiated hockey since 1999, has been a level 3 official since 2005, and is currently Referee-In-Chief of SJAMHA.

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